24 April 1998

Stores trade slumps at Ayr

AN AIR of gloom hung over the annual fair day sale of store cattle last week in Ayr, with the auction of 1000-plus beef animals opening to a ringside less than half full and just a handful of bidders.

The premium for quality was also minimal, with plain black-and-white bullocks making almost as much as prime Charolais and Limousin suckled calves. The final average for bullocks was 100p/kg, down 4p on the year. The heifer trade saw an average down more than 14p at 86.7p/kg.

The biggest consignment was the 120 suckled calves from Robert and Caroline Dalrymple who feature in fws Management Matters series. Their 52 bullock calves from Kings Arms at Ballantrae typically weighed 430kg (up 16kg on the year). But the average price fell by £60 a head, or 19p/kg at £449 a head and 104p/kg. A show-type Limousin cross topped the bullocks at 132p/kg.

The 68 heifers from Kings Arms averaged 372kg, which was down 1kg on the year, and the average price at £354 or 95p/kg was down £45 a head or 12p/kg.

The Dalrymples have now sold 150 suckled calves this year between the February and April sales at Ayr. Total income has been down £8400 on the year and £20,600 down on 1996 returns.

"We try our best to have quality calves for sale and we try to be optimistic about the future. But that is a major drop in income over two years and with no early prospect of any improvement," said Mr Dalrymple.

Top price of the day at Ayr was 140p/kg for a pen of eight Limousin crosses from High Mains which had not collected any beef special premium subsidy. &#42

The Dalrymples have seen income from suckled calves tumble (see below).